Archive for Ecological Impacts
www.guardian.co.uk 1st October 2012
Quoted from source:
‘Coral cover in the Great Barrier Reef has dropped by more than half over the last 27 years, according to scientists, a result of increased storms, bleaching and predation by population explosions of a starfish which sucks away the coral’s nutrients. At present rates of decline, the coral cover will halve again within a decade, though scientists said the reef could recover if the crown-of-thorns starfish can be brought under control and, longer term, global carbon dioxide emissions are reduced.
Coral reefs are an important part of the marine ecosystem as sources of food and as protection for young fish. They are under threat around the world from the effects of bleaching, due to rising ocean temperatures, and increasing acidification of the oceans, which reduces the corals’ ability to build their calcium carbonate structures. The Great Barrier Reef is the most iconic coral reef in the world, listed as a Unesco world heritage site and the source of $A5bn (£3.2bn) a year to the Australian economy through tourism. The observations of its decline are based on more than 2,000 surveys of 214 reefs between 1985 and 2012. The results showed a decline in coral cover from 28% to 13.8% – an average of 0.53% a year and a total loss of 50.7% over the 27-year period. The study was published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal (subscription).’
www.nytimes.com 10th April 2011
The global recession has had many an unintended consequence in our society. One way European governments are tightening their belts is by reducing subsidies on new technologies such as renewable energy, thereby making it more expensive for citizens to use. Coupled with the current negative attitude towards nuclear power following the awful Japanese tsunami of March last year, there is suddenly a gap in the energy market. And it seems we are falling back on fossil fuels as a result. Countries all over sub-Saharan Africa are experiencing billions of dollars of investment as energy giants look for the next lucrative oil or gas field to exploit. Mozambique, for example, has seen interest from the American company Exxon-Mobil, the British BG Group, and the Italian Eni. Potentially, the eastern African country has more gas reserves than the largest producer in Europe: Norway. Much of these resources will be diverted towards the energy hungry East, where China’s demand is forever increasing. The scramble for new resources good have benefits on a national scale. Energy companies are diversifying their sources for fossil fuels, and the introduction of the contentious ‘fracking’ of shale gas could allow countries like Poland escape their reliance on Russia for gas. However, environmentally, this renewed boom of fossil fuel exploration can only have a detrimental effect.
www.sciencedaily.com 1st March 2012
A new study by Colombia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory indicates that today’s ocean acidification through human carbon emissions is happening faster than at any time during the past 300 million years. Over this time there have been four mass extinctions caused by natural ‘pulse’ emissions of carbon into the atmosphere, which sent temperatures soaring. According to lead author Bärbel Hönisch, ”What we’re doing today really stands out. We know that life during past ocean acidification events was not wiped out — new species evolved to replace those that died off. But if industrial carbon emissions continue at the current pace, we may lose organisms we care about — coral reefs, oysters, salmon.” The study is the first to explore the geological record for signs of ocean acidification over time. The research team behind the study came from five different countries and reviewed hundreds of paleoceanographic papers to come to their conclusion. In the past 300 million years, there was only one time period where the ocean acidified as quickly as it is today. Spanning 5,000 years roughly 56 million years ago, a mysterious surge of carbon into the atmosphere caused an estimated 6 degree rise in global temperatures. The carbonic acid created in the ocean by the absorption of CO2 led to the dissolving of carbonate plankton shells on the seafloor creating a layer of mud. Normally these shells help regulate the acidity of the oceans.
e360.yale.edu 13th December 2011
Quoted from source:
‘Russian scientists sampling the waters of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf have discovered enormous plumes of methane, some more than a kilometer wide, bubbling up from the thawing seabed. Igor Semiletov, an oceanographer from the Far Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said a research cruise late this summer detected more than 100 of these extensive methane “fountains” in an area of less than 10,000 square miles. Semiletov, who has been studying the region’s seabed for 20 years, said the scale and volume of the plumes far surpasses anything he had seen previously and could indicate that slushy methane hydrates on the seabed are thawing at an intensifying rate as Arctic Ocean ice disappears and sea temperatures rise. In 2010, Semiletov estimated that the emissions of methane — a powerful heat-trapping gas — bubbling from the seabed in this region were about 8 million tons a year, but he said the recent expedition has shown that methane releases could be far higher. “We carried out checks at about 115 stationary points and discovered methane fields of a fantastic scale,” Lemiletov told the UK’s Independent newspaper. Scientists fear that continued warming of the Arctic could release so much methane that the global climate could pass a tipping point and be pushed into an era of rapid warming.’
Two scientists involved in the so-called ‘Polarbeargate’ scandal have been asked to take lie-detector tests by the US Department of the Interior (DOI). In 2004 Jeffrey Gleason and Charles Monnett wrote a paper on dead polar bears floating in the Arctic, apparently drowned, and in doing so helped highlight the plight of the species in relation to melting Arctic ice. However, this year allegations within the DOI emerged claiming that acts of ‘scientific misconduct’ may have been committed in relation to the report prompting the DOI’s Office of Inspector General to launch an investigation. After several interviews, the DOI suspended Mr Monnett, who works for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, causing accusations of politics interfering with science and a witch-hunt. Although Mr Monnett has since returned to work, the focus has now shifted to his fellow author Mr Gleason, who was asked if he would take a polygraph. He replied that he would only if the agent interviewing him would take one also. ”There appears to be kind of a desperate, almost fierce nature to pursue this until they find something,” said Mr Gleason’s lawyer, Jeff Ruch, of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Mr Ruch has filed a complaint with the DOI saying his client should be investigated by a review board of scientists, and not the Office of Inspector General.
e360.yale.edu 5th October 2011
‘The European Union says crude oil extracted from Alberta’s tar sands should be ranked as a dirtier fuel source than oil tapped from conventional oil wells, a move that could effectively ban the import of the controversial oil. The European Commission endorsed a measure that would essentially rate fossil fuels based on the CO2 emited during extraction, refining, and combustion. The EU has proposed that tar sands oil be ascribed a greenhouse gas value of 107 grams per megajoule of fuel, compared with 87.5 grams for ordinary crude oil. “With this measure, we are sending a clear signal to fossil fuel suppliers,” said Connie Hedegaard, the EU’s climate change commissioner. “As fossil fuels will be a reality in the foreseeable future, it’s important to give them the right value.” Such a ratings system may eventually be applied to natural gas extracted from shale oil formations. The exploitation of Alberta’s tar sands has generated increasing protest from environmental groups. In addition to destroying large swaths of forest, the extraction and processing of the sludgy bituminous material typically requires more energy and water than conventional production. Canadian officials and petroleum industry leaders vowed to fight the measure, calling it a “stigmatization” of a fuel source found only in Alberta and Saskatchewan.’
www.independent.co.uk 28th August 2011
Torrential rainfall in eastern Australia has caused the destruction of 1,000 miles of sea-grass fields, the natural habitat and food for the country’s most endangered species the dugong, or sea cow as it more commonly known. At least 100 are known to have died so far as they travel further from their natural foraging areas to find food, putting themselves more at risk to disease, injury and death. The beds of sea grass, which makes up the largest part of the sea cow’s diet, takes 2 to 3 years to recover, and that is only if there are not any severe weather conditions in between. Sea cow populations are already in rapid decline due to pollution, escalating industrial activity and over-fishing by local populations. A new TV campaign is about to be launched to tackle the latter cause of the dugong decline. Activists believe that an overhaul of Australia’s Native Title laws should occur to prevent over-fishing and cruelty by aboriginal communities. Campaign organiser for Australians for Animals Colin Riddell says: “We have a confirmed report of a dugong calf being tied to the back of a boat, its cries bringing in the mother so they can both be killed. We have reports in our office of indigenous groups going out in motor boats with a GPS to find dugongs. Once found, they radio their mates and entire pods of dugongs are slaughtered.” Turtles also rely on sea grass as an important source of food and several hundred have been found washed up dead.
A number of dangerous chemicals that have been frozen in the Arctic ice are being released as rising temperatures cause ice-caps to melt. The chemicals are called Persistent Organic Pollutants (or Pops) and include the industrial chemicals PCBs, and the pesticides DDT, lindane, and chlordane. They have all been banned under the 2004 Stockholm Convention due to the damaging effect they have on the environment and on human health. Studies carried out by Canadian and Norwegian scientists (the former based at Alert weather station in northern Canada and the latter at Zeppelin research station at Svalbaard) have shown that despite a global reduction in Pops emissions, air concentrations of PCBs and HCBs have been on the rise since 2004 due to chemicals being released from melting Arctic ice. Pops are stored in the fatty tissues of organisms that inadvertently consume them and are passed up the food chain because of this. Larger organisms at the top of the food chain, such as dolphins, seals, and orcas, therefore receive dangerously high concentrations of the chemicals that have profound effects on their health. In humans, Pops are related to cancers and physical deformity, among other defects and diseases. There is little scientific knowledge on the scale of Pops stored in high altitude regions.
www.seaweb.org 6th July 2011
In the absence of a global move to reduce carbon emissions, many have asked the question whether anything can really be done to reduce the effects of ocean acidification on the marine environment. A new paper, released in the journal Science, has tried to tackle this question by putting forward a number of ideas that could be implemented by local and national governments to better protect their coastlines. Although the growing amount of CO2 in our atmosphere is increasing the level of the gas absorbed by the oceans (thereby creating carbonic acid), several other factors also play a role in this process. Freshwater input from rivers, pollution, and soil erosion all affect the acidic level of seawater. Although the report, headed by Ryan Kelly of the Center for Ocean Solutions at Stanford University, is aimed towards the United States, it’s lessons are relevant on a global scale. The first issue they tackle is to reduce acidification-related runoff. This can be done by using state funding and the Clean Water Act to prevent stormwater surges, upgrade water treatment facilities, and restore wetland areas. Secondly, in order to reduce coastal erosion (which carries with nutrient runoff and acidification-inducing fertilisers) local governing bodies should encourage vegetation growth that stabilises coastal sediment. Thirdly, “enforcement of federal emissions requirements for such industrial pollutants as nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxide should provide local benefits given these pollutants’ short atmospheric resident times.” The paper insists that these more local moves challenge the commonly held belief that the problem of ocean acidification can only be dealt with on a national scale.
www.independent.co.uk 26th June 2011
A new report by the Climate Change & European Marine Ecosystem Research on the effects of climate change on European seas has warned of the devastating consequences of decreasing salinity in the Baltic Sea. The report describes how climate change will increase precipitation around the sea causing it to become fresher through runoff. This would have disastrous effects on Baltic sea-life, which is already struggling against pollution and over-fishing. The report, which has collated 13 years worth of research from 17 marine institutes in Europe, also mentions the arrival of a new species of plankton in the North Atlantic, which has been extinct from the ocean for 800,000 years. The plankton comes from the Pacific and has been kept separated from the Atlantic by the Arctic ice. With the ice melting, the alien species of plankton threatens the very foundation of the North Atlantic food-web. A further indication of the Arctic melt was the sighting of a Pacific Grey Whale in the Mediterranean. Other effects of climate change include a possible increase of biodiversity in the Black Sea as Mediterranean species migrate to the warming waters there. Also, highly venomous jellyfish such as the Portuguese Man-of-War are spreading northwards through the North Atlantic as waters warm, forcing beaches to close and threatening young fish stocks.
www.bbc.co.uk 20th June 2011
According to a new report published by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), the world’s oceans are in a far worse state than previously recognised. Factors such as over-fishing, pollution, and climate change are working together in a way putting marine life “at high risk of entering a phase of extinction…unprecedented in human history”. IPSO collected together experts in the fields of many marine science disciplines to write the report, including coral-reef specialists, toxicologists, ecologists and fishery specialists. “We’ve ended up with a picture showing that almost right across the board we’re seeing changes that are happening faster than we’d thought, or in ways that we didn’t expect to see for hundreds of years,” said Alex Rogers, IPSO’s scientific director and professor of conservation biology at Oxford University. One of the new areas discussed by the specialists is the problem of plastics in the oceans. Plastic particles, broken down in the marine environment, act as sponges for persistent organic pollutants such as DDT and PCBs. This increases the toxin uptake rate in fish that mistake plastic for food. These chemicals then bioaccumulate up the food chain causing various harmful effects. Plastic also acts as transport for algae thereby increasing the occurrence of algal blooms. Other problems are ocean acidification and coral bleaching. Five “mass extinction events” are known to have occurred in the earth’s history and, although the report says it is too early to tell, IPSO say that if mankind continues to exploit the oceans as we are, then we will cause the sixth.
www.telegraph.co.uk 10th June 2011
The latest spell of warm weather across the UK has been the declared the driest spring in 100 years, according to the UK’s Environment Agency, causing parts of Eastern England to be given ‘drought’ status. This means farmers may have to stop taking water from local waterways and businesses such as food processors and breweries reduce water use and share resources. Despite this, the Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman has said that a hosepipe ban is not yet needed as reservoirs remain quite full. She did suggest people take showers instead of baths though to save water. Only one water company, Severn Trent in the Midlands, has openly said that a hosepipe ban is likely this summer. Although East Anglia is the worst affected part of the country, areas of the South West, South East, the Midlands, and Wales are designated as having ‘near-drought’ conditions. The WWF have expressed concerns that water companies make take too much water from waterways threatening such species as otters, water voles, and salmon. A spokesman said, “our water supplies have been taken for granted for far too long and now we’re facing a drought that could devastate our wildlife, rivers and crops. Ministers must act to ensure we change the way we use our water instead of wasting it through badly designed buildings and appliances, poor planning and inadequate investment.” Most cereal crops such as Barley and Wheat in East Anglia and the South East have already been lost due to dry conditions but fruits such as strawberries and cherries are having bumper yields.
www.nytimes.com 6th June 2011
Canadian oil sands hold an incredibly large amount of oil. Sands in the province of Alberta alone hold an estimated 171.3 billion barrels of oil so it is not hard to see why its extraction is progressing at a rapid rate. However, a proposed pipeline between Canada and the US has stumbled across some difficulties as the State Department, the US government body that needs to give permission for the pipeline, reaches an end of its environmental review. The process has lasted since November 2008. A decision is expected by the end of this year. Environmental groups widely criticise the exploitation of oil sands due to the amount of energy and water used in the extraction process and the destruction of the Boreal forest atop the sands. With $7 billion behind the Keystone XL pipeline’s construction though, as well as US government concerns about oil import instability due to the Arab Spring, environmental concerns may be sidelined for a secure source of oil. Russell K. Girling, president of TransCanada, the company behind Keystone XL, has said that oil sand development will go ahead whatever the American government decide. Other alternatives include transporting by rail or by using other existing pipelines such the Trans Mountain pipeline to Canada’s Pacific Coast. The Chinese have also expressed interest. The Canadian government is not likely to fall out of love with so-called ‘dirty oil’ (see the film of the same name in our documentaries section) anytime soon. Canadians re-elected a conservative government who have been staunch supporters of oil sand development.
www.independent.co.uk 27th May 2011
A small island just 600 km away from the Antarctic Peninsula has been comprehensively studied for the first time by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). Previously thought to be an “inhospitable lump of rock”, the island of South Georgia has now shown scientists (the only human inhabitants on the isle) the opposite. The survey recorded 1,445 species, many of which are unique to the island. Species include sea spiders, free-swimming worms, fish, and crustaceans. Many types of whale frequent the waters there including the blue, sperm, and killer. It is also the most important nesting ground for the King Penguin. In fact, divers from the BAS found so many types of sea-life in South Georgian waters that they still haven’t worked through all the samples. The rich biodiversity of the region has been put down to several factors including the remoteness of the island and lack of human contact. Its position beside currents that are rich in nutrients also helps sustain the diverse wildlife. Oliver Hogg, a marine ecologist with the BAS, said: “One of the reasons it’s so rich is, we suspect, that it’s a really old island. It separated from the continental land mass of South America and Antarctica about 45 million years ago so it’s had a lot of time to evolve new species and develop a really diverse ecosystem.” Warming waters though, at least in part explainable by climate change, may have a negative impact on the island’s inhabitants. ‘In the period 1925 to 2006 sea temperatures in the region rose on average by 0.9C in January and 2.3C in August in the 100 metres of water nearest the surface.’ South Georgia has been in British hands since 1775 when Captain James Cook laid claim to it, although it was briefly taken by Argentina in 1982 during the Fauklands war.
www.boston.com 6th May 2011
The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP), a scientific coalition of 8 countries bordering the region, has announced that mercury levels in Arctic will rise 25% by 2020 unless more is done to combat emissions. The group warned that climate change will likely worsen the problem as mercury stored in permafrost will be released into waterways, which may have a profound effect on local wildlife including whales and polar bears. Although Europe, North America, and even Russia have made large gains in reducing emissions in recent years, the global output of mercury is still on the rise. This is due to countries such as China, the world’s number one mercury polluter who is responsible for about half of the global output.
(LMV note:) Mercury is one of the worst endocrine disrupting chemicals out there and can have very serious effects on animals and people alike. For the latter, look up Minamata disease: a condition that afflicted thousands of Japanese residents after a local factory dumped mercury into the local water supply. Endocrine disruption is when a chemical mimics a natural occurring hormone in the body therefore disrupting the natural order of things. Visit the University of Missouri’s Endocrine Disruptors Group to find out more.
www.bbc.co.uk 6th May 2011
A team of scientists from the US have determined that climate change over the past three decades has led to a 5.5% decline in global wheat yields. The research was carried out by Stanford University and assessed the impact of climate on the four major food crops of the world: wheat, rice, corn, and soybeans. Crop losses were so severe in some regions that they wiped out gains made through such factors as technology. ”There are already clear changes going on in most agricultural regions in terms of weather, and they have effects on food production that are sizeable,” said David Lobell, the head researcher on the report. Strangely enough, North America was the only region studied that did not show any trend of warming over the 30 year period whereas Europe, China, and Brazil all did. When it came to rainfall, just as many regions were experiencing more rainfall as those experiencing less. Professor Lobell insisted that the findings only referred to past relationships and in order for predictions in future crop yield to be worked out, some large assumptions would have to be made. For one, whether the crops of tomorrow will be the same as the ones we use today (genetically for one).
www.bbc.co.uk 26th April 2011
A US government report has highlighted the growing concern of water supplies in the western United States. Climate change, according to the report, could cut water flow into the area’s largest river basins by as much as 20% this century. This coincides with the fastest demographic growth rate in the country, indicating water shortages will become a likelihood for millions of people from Texas and Arizona, to California and Nevada. The American southwest is already experiencing water problems with inadequate supplies for drinking water, irrigation, and electricity production. Texas, Arizona, and Nevada are the driest states in the country, as well as having the fastest population growth, yet they are also the ones experiencing greatest water shortages. The report, put together by the Bureau of Reclamation, also outlined some other projections about future weather patterns related to water supply. These include: ‘a temperature increase of 5-7 degrees Fahrenheit (2.8-3.9 degrees Celsius); a precipitation increase over the north-western and north-central portions of the western US and a decrease over the south-western and south-central area; a decrease for almost all of the 1 April snowpack, a standard benchmark measurement used to project river basin run-off.’ The aim of the report is to create effective measures of response to these predictions.
www.latimes.com 23rd February 2011
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‘Vines may be proliferating at the expense of trees in tropical forests across the Americas, scientists have found. This shift in abundance could affect the water in the ecosystem and how carbon is stored in the plants, potentially drying out forests and resulting in more carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere. The report, published online last week in the journal Ecology Letters, surveyed eight studies on the state of woody vines in tropical forests from the Savannah River system and the Congaree National Park in South Carolina to an area in the central Amazon about 50 miles north of Manaus, Brazil. They found that in all forests, vines were increasing in abundance, biomass or both. “Global change is happening everywhere — and this is one of the first signs for tropical forests,” said Stefan Schnitzer, an ecologist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, who conducted the review with Frans Bongers of Wageningen University in the Netherlands. Woody vines evolved to escape the dimly lit confines under the trees in tropical forests by climbing up tree trunks and branches, then spreading their networks of leaves over the dense treetops that make up the forest canopy. They block sunlight from the tree leaves they cover, and compete with the trees for water and nutrients.’
www.telegraph.co.uk 4th February 2011
The Amazonian rainforest has been struck by two severe floods in the past six years causing a large number of trees to die. The first hit in 2005 and was described as a 1 in a 100 year event. However, new research of 5.3 million square kilometres of forest by a team led by Dr Simon Lewis from the University of Leeds has discovered that another drought last year may have been even worse. The first drought alone was responsible for releasing 5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere due to rotting vegetation and the forest’s reduced capacity to absorb greenhouse gases (the Amazon usually absorbs about 1.5 billion tonnes annually). The second brought the Rio Negro tributary of the Amazon to its lowest recorded level. If these droughts continue the researchers, who published their findings in the journal Science, believe that the Amazon forest could go from being carbon absorber to a carbon emitter.
www.latimes.com 29th January 2011
The US Geological Survey has tracked a female polar bear swimming for 426 miles in order to find an ice-flow in the Beaufort Sea. The epic journey took 9 days and came at a heavy cost. It was reported that she set out with her cub but the little one did not survive the trip. Furthermore, the length of her swim resulted in the bear losing 22% of her body weight. With little in the way of food at her destination, it is unlikely she will be able to recover. The marathon journey is yet another example of the extent ice is melting in the arctic region due to climate change. During the autumn open water periods in the region, polar bears are subject to either fasting on land until the ice reforms or swimming for ice-flows to find seals. With dramatic reduction in the size of ice-flows over the past few years, polar bears are finding it increasingly difficult to swim for food. The example of this 9-day swim is the most extreme recorded for the species. ”We have observed other long-distance swimming events. I don’t believe any of them have been as long in time and distance as what we observed with her,” George M. Durner, a USGS zoologist, said. The Obama administration has designated a 187,000 square miles of Alaska as a protection zone for the endangered polar bears but US District Judge Emmet G. Sulivan has ruled that the species must be in “imminent” danger of extinction before being given the status of endangered. The court battle between conservationist groups and oil and gas companies over this issue continues in February. If polar bears are declared endangered then the US will have to reduce its carbon emissions to protect the species.
www.nationalgeographic.com 6th December 2010
‘A lone house stands out against a dry riverbed in Cadajas on October 25. A prolonged drought may harm Brazil’s crops. For instance, farmers in the Amazon’s fertile Matto Grosso state are highly dependent on Amazon rain to grow their crops, which are extremely profitable because normally so little irrigation is needed.’
‘Hard-hit by a months-long drought, a waterway within the Amazon Basin trickles to a halt in Manaus, Brazil on November 19. The Negro River, a major tributary of the Amazon River, dropped to a depth of about 46 feet (14 meters)—the lowest point since record-keeping began in 1902.’
‘A fisher reportedly discovered prehistoric etchings when water receded from the banks of the Negro River, according to the Hindu newspaper. Archaeologists suggest the 7,000-year-old engravings—which feature images of faces and snakes—may be more evidence that the Amazon was once home to large civilizations.’
‘A boat rests amid debris in Manaus on September 15. The drought has also sparked a surge in wildfires, particularly in the state of Mato Grosso—which means “thick forest,” according to Reuters. There have been 36,700 forest fires in Mato Grasso so far this year, compared with 8,135 in 2009, Reuters reported. The blazes have destroyed cattle pastures, killed livestock, and burned down some of the region’s remaining original forest.’
www.boston.com 26th November 2010
The non-profit organisation Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, one of the foremost opposition groups to the USA’s first offshore windfarm, has fallen into debt. After raising, on average, $3.6 million a year from 2003-5 to campaign against the renewable energy farm and its owners Cape Wind. However, by last year funding was down to $1.4 million following the groups defeat in Washington and this year, according to December tax returns, the Alliance was $500,000 in the red. The Alliance president Audra Parker claims that the lack of funding is due to both the length of the fight (almost a decade now) and the recession. Ms. Parker has insisted that the Alliance will continue to protest against the windfarm, which, they claim, will destroy the Nantucket Sound in Massachusetts and cost more for the tax-payer. In reality the windfarm will only add less than $2 to the average monthly energy bills on nearby residents but in comparative terms Cape Wind power will double the cost of electricity from fossil fuels. Although the group has around 5,000 members in the Massachusetts area, when funding dipped it relied upon just nine wealthy donors who contributed about $1 million. One of these is William I. Koch, the fossil fuel magnate, who donated $100,000 to cover the cost of the former Alliance president Glenn G. Wattley. Mr Koch also gave $1 million to a lobbying firm to persuade government officials to drop the Cape Wind plans.
www.telegraph.co.uk 29th November 2010
A series of papers published by the Royal Society has revealed that scientists believe current plans to tackle climate change are not enough. Organisations such as Oxford University and the Met Office have contributed to the publication which states that unless more drastic measures are taken global temperatures could rise as much as 4 degrees centigrade by the 2060s. This would cause catastrophic floods, drought, and mass migrations across the world. One drastic example of the severity of the situation, according to the contributors, is from Professor Kevin Anderson, Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, who believes that the only way to reduce global emissions enough, while continuing to allow poorer nations to grow, is to stop growth in the developed world for twenty years. This would mean people in countries like the UK and USA would have to live less carbon intensive lifestyles. One way this could be achieved is by adopting a strict rationing system much like that of world war two. Electricity restrictions and less food from abroad are examples of this measure. Other authors wrote that the aim of reducing emissions by 50% relative to 1990 levels by 2050, the target the current climate summit in Cancun hopes to secure, is not enough and will not prevent temperature sensitive ecosystems such as coral reefs from being wiped out.
www.nationalgeographic.com 6th August 2010
An aquatic strain of Herpes is rapidly spreading through European oyster populations. The virus is already responsible for killing 20 to 80% of some French oyster beds in the past three years. However, this year is the first time herpes has been recorded in UK waters, according to the British government’s Fish Health Inspectorate. It has been suggested that global warming played a part in the spread of the disease as a new strain, called Ostreid herpesvirus 1 (OsHV-1), remains dormant until water temperatures rise above 16 degrees centigrade. UK territorial waters have begun to reach this temperature in the height of summer. Like other strains of herpes that effect molluscs, the OsHV-1 strain attacks young oysters during breeding season when they are so concentrated on producing sperm and eggs (pictured) that they do not have enough energy to maintain their immune systems. Although oyster herpes cannot be spread to humans, it can affect the fishing industry as oysters affected by the virus are unsafe to eat. The British government has banned the export of the mollusc out of the infected area in order to prevent the infection spreading. These areas are mostly focussed around the mouth of the River Thames.
www.independent.co.uk 10th November 2010
The British government has admitted that its policy of doubling the amount of biofuels used in the country by 2020 will actually increase carbon emissions. The UK is signed up to an EU agreement that states that signatories have to source 10% of their transport fuel from biofuels by that date. The problem is that a large amount of land is needed to grow these fuel crops. It has been estimated that in order for the target to be met, an area of between the size of Belgium and the Republic of Ireland needs to be cultivated. But the carbon dioxide given off by clearing the vegetation off this land will, potentially, be more than the savings made by replacing fossil fuels with biofuels. As Europe does not have enough land to satisfy this demand, the crops are mostly grown in other countries such as Brazil and Indonesia (pictured). A study by the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) has stated that the deforestation will produce as much as 56 million tons of CO2 per year, or the equivalent of between 12 and 26 million extra cars on European roads by 2020. Although the EU has banned biofuels bought from new land, i.e.: forested land cleared to grow them, biofuel companies have got around this law by buying up existing fields thereby forcing the farmers to clear land for their own means. This is known as Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC). The results of the IEEP study has caused the British government to reassess its position on the subject. Ministers are now urging the European Commission to rethink its plans on biofuels, a move welcomed by environmental groups.
www.telegraph.co.uk 10th November 2010
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A study of whales in the Gulf of California over the past few years showed blisters and other symptoms typically associated with the skin damage that humans suffer from exposure to the ultraviolet radiation. Whales would be particularly vulnerable to sunburn in part because they need to spend extended periods of time on the ocean’s surface to breathe, socialise, and feed their young. Without fur or feathers to protect their skin, they are effectively sunbathing naked. Laura Martinez-Levasseur, the study’s lead author, said: “Humans can put on clothes or sunglasses – whales can’t.” Ms Martinez-Levasseur, who works at Zoological Society of London, spent three years studying whales in the Gulf of California. Photographs were taken of the whales to chart any visible damage, and small samples – taken with a crossbow-fired dart – were collected to examine the state of their skin cells. Her study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, seemed to confirm suspicions first raised by one of her whale-watching colleagues: The mammals were showing lesions associated with sun damage, and many of their skin samples revealed patterns of dead cells associated with exposure to UV radiation. As with humans, the lighter-skinned whales seemed to have the most difficulty dealing with the sun. Blue whales had more severe skin damage than their darker-skinned counterparts, fin whales and sperm whales, even though the latter spend bigger chunks of time at the surface. So far, there were no indications of skin cancer among the whales studied, although Ms Martinez-Levasseur, who is also a PhD student at Queen Mary, University of London, noted that only tiny samples were taken.
e360.yale.edu 9th November 2010
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‘The habitat diversity of the planet’s mountain ranges may offer a safe haven for species threatened by the effects of climate change, according to a new study. Using infrared photography and sensors to monitor soil temperatures in Switzerland’s central Alps, researchers from the University of Basel found that slope exposure and the ruggedness of the alpine terrain “produce a broad spectrum of life conditions” not present in most ecosystems, creating “refuge habitats” for many species. Based on computer modeling, the researchers estimated that if temperatures increase 2 degrees C, only 3 percent of alpine habitat will become unsuitable for species in the region. The scientists said they were surprised by the high degree of temperature contrasts found in the Alps, and that the many micro-climates will enable species to migrate short distances and still find suitable habitat under a scenario of modest temperature increases. The study was published in the Journal of Biogeography.’
Quoted from source:
‘For thousands of years, nomadic herdsmen have roamed the harsh, semi-arid lowlands that stretch across 80 percent of Kenya and 60 percent of Ethiopia. Descendants of the oldest tribal societies in the world, they survive thanks to the animals they raise and the crops they grow, their travels determined by the search for water and grazing lands. These herdsmen have long been accustomed to adapting to a changing environment. But in recent years, they have faced challenges unlike any in living memory: As temperatures in the region have risen and water supplies have dwindled, the pastoralists have had to range more widely in search of suitable water and land. That search has brought tribal groups in Ethiopia and Kenya in increasing conflict, as pastoral communities kill each other over water and grass.
“When the Water Ends,” a 16-minute video produced by Yale Environment 360 in collaboration with MediaStorm, tells the story of this conflict and of the increasingly dire drought conditions facing parts of East Africa. To report this video, Evan Abramson, a 32-year-old photographer and videographer, spent two months in the region early this year, living among the herding communities. He returned with a tale that many climate scientists say will be increasingly common in the 21st century and beyond — how worsening drought in parts of Africa, the Middle East, and elsewhere will pit group against group, nation against nation. As one UN official told Abramson, the clashes between Kenyan and Ethiopian pastoralists represent “some of the world’s first climate-change conflicts.”’
To watch the documentary click here.